CD Reviews – Acoustic Adventures Volume One Sonata Arctica
01. The rest of the sun is mine
02. For the Sake of Revenge
03. A little less understanding
04. Alone in Paradise
06. Don’t Say a Word
07. As if the world didn’t stop
08. Paid in full
09. Tonight I’m dancing alone
10. Wolves die young
11. Wolf and Raven
12. On the Fault Line
For melodic heavy metal bands with big catalogs, it’s hard to resist the lure of the acoustic album. ARCTIC SONATA are more suitable candidates than most, thanks in part to the elegant and lyrical way in which the leader Tony Kakko writes songs. Even though the Finns are able to blow people away with heavy metal swagger, they have long stood out from their peers as something else, something prettier and more versatile than standard power metal. Consequently, while “Acoustic Adventures – Volume 1” is clearly aimed at diehard fans, rather than the casual metal listener, it all makes perfect sense and is performed with such delicate restraint that it’s clearly not some sort of second best cynical.
The opening “The rest of the sun is mine” is the biggest draw here. Previously released in 2003, as a Japan-only bonus track for the seminal “Guild of Winterheart”, it’s as romantic and adorable as anything in the ARCTIC SONATA armory and benefits enormously from a wonderfully pretty and imaginative arrangement. The rest is roughly split between the obvious hits and the deeper cuts that presumably lent themselves to these more relaxed reads. “A little less understanding”, “Don’t Say a Word” and “Fully Paid” fill out the brief rundown of hits, and they all sound refreshed enough to warrant conceit. In the same way, “As if the world does not stop” may not have jumped as an obvious highlight of 2009 “Days of the Greys”, but in this melodious new form, it turns into a stunning yet understated waltz, filled with lively analog keys straight out of the progressive rock textbook.
The downside of all this is that ARCTIC SONATAThe schmaltzier tendencies of are given free rein in this context, and no amount of Mellotron can save the likes of early ballads “Tallulah” (native “Silence”, 2001) to be cornier than the cheese itself. Also, “Alone in Paradise” is a pleasant enough song, but the pure, brilliant sharpness of its arrangement is more background music in the hotel lobby than a festival of awe-inspiring emotions. Fortunately, “Acoustic Adventures – Volume 1” ends in true SONATA style, with unbalanced sweetness “Wolf and Raven” – which crackles at a breathless pace, like a drugged, haywire campfire – and “On the Fault Line”: a shaky job, even by kakkoare wonderfully indulgent standards, but the only truly killer ballad on the record, rendered in shades of gray and steeped in melancholy.
Enraged sidekicks will savor every lavish second, which is completely normal. ARCTIC SONATA remains a unique proposition in a crowded market, and while it may be a larger serving of sugar than most people could digest, occasional small doses of this deft but eminently friendly detour are recommended.
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